So, I’m troubled…still. Troubled by the attachment of intellectualism with elitism, and how it plays out in American politics. Let me be more specific. It seems that American politicians continue to back away from their privileged educations and shine the spotlight on their “folksy” characteristics (simulated or not) in order to win the American public’s vote.
We’ve all heard/read/talked/laughed about references to Bush and his distance from intellectualism. The President of Barnard College, Judith Shapiro, just wrote/spoke about this topic, in reference to the Clinton/Obama battle:
“Here we had two candidates vying to run for President who had been educated at institutions that are among the most distinguished in our country: Wellesley, Yale, Columbia and Harvard. Both candidates were obviously highly intelligent and knowledgeable. Yet both felt the need to play down their claims to intellectuality–and the winner may still feel that need in the general election. Hillary Clinton chugalugged beer and sought to attach the dread lable of ‘elitist’ to her rival. And Barack Obama felt compelled to follow one of the most honest and sophisticated political speeches in recent memory with strenuous displays of folksiness” (“Staying Smart in Dumbed-Down Times”).
I guess I’m concerned by and wondering what others think about the need for political candidates–presidential candidates–to market themselves this way. I’m all for candidates with balance: an intellectual drive and sophistication alongside a strong sense of humor, silliness…say, folksiness. But how dangerous is a public association of intellect with elitism, and the consequent backing away from such characteristics? And, what does it mean when the art of persuasion for political candidates rests on playing down”intellectuality”?